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Cell phone service

We will be in France from March 14 to 31, from the USA. Verizon tells me that it will be $10 per day for phone/text/data service in France.

What do folks do when you travel to France? I would like to be able to text back to the US (elderly mom in poor health), and I anticipate needing data so that I can look up directions on maps, find restaurants, etc.

There are 4 of us travelling, and there might be times when we pair off and separate, so we'll want to be able to text each other.

Thanks,
Cindy

Posted by
2588 posts

$10 per day is outrageously expensive. If money is no object, Verizon´s plans can work for you. T-Mobile plans already include worldwide SMS and data without additional cost, so I have T-Mobile service.

Alternatively, there are French, short term plans from Orange, Bouygues, SFR, and FREE. I use FREE as well as T-Mobile, but the Orange service is very popular and inexpensive.

It is possible to download, from WiFi, the required data maps for Paris in advance, allowing you full location access without real time data service.

There are a number of cheaper alternatives to Verizon, but it is very easy to pay the money and keep what you have.

Posted by
336 posts

Verizon works well for us. Sure the $10 a day can add up, but it is so convenient. Some days, I may decide to keep the phone off, so there is no charge for that day. Getting a local phone or a new SIM card is too much hassle for me. I always let them know (on website) when/where I am traveling, but I don't think it is required.

Posted by
3210 posts

Check the "Phones & Technology" section under Travel Tips on this website.

Posted by
776 posts

If you travel a lot, or even a little, you can't beat T-Mobile for both talk and text in Europe. It's even better if you're over 55.

Posted by
27405 posts

WhatsApp is a texting app that works over Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi is widely, though certainly not universally, available in Europe.

If by chance one or more of you are considering switching phone plans, take a look at Google Fi. For light users of data (I am one), it is considerably less expensive than even T-Mobile. However, I know there are places in the US where Verizon has better reception than some of the alternatives. No phone plan is a bargain if it doesn't work well when you're at home and at work.

Posted by
6790 posts

International free texting as well as slower 2G data speeds come with my phone plan. Check yours. I also use Google maps downloaded for offline for use for navigation so as not to need data, or a data plan. I do research, or use the Internet while connected to WiFi. I do have WhatsApp, Skype, FaceTime, FB messenger, etc. if I want to contact people. I only make calls in country if I need to contact a lodging for some reason, so have no need for an international phone plan. No sense spending money on something you won’t use.

Posted by
4916 posts

Since I take regular trips to Europe, I've bought a Vodafone UK SIM that I installed into an older Android phone (which doesn't even have US service) and which I use by buying a 30 day phone/text/data plan each time I take a trip. The cost of the 30 day plans I use are less than the cost of 2 days on my Verizon plan. And I like having a persistent number that I can give to hotels, restaurants or other service providers.

Details are here:
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/tech-tips/vodafone-uk-sim-card-for-use-in-europe

Even with that SIM, I use wifi as often as possible and pre-download Google Maps for offline use.

I only recommend this approach if you anticipate multiple trips or longer trips. If this will be your "one and only" trip, it may be easier to get a SIM card installed in-country and have the techs set everything up for you.

Posted by
168 posts

I just pay Verizon's fee. I use my phone a lot. And all my passwords for all accounts, all social media, etc. are on my phone. It's too much of a hassle to get the phone, set up the phones, etc. But that's just me....

My husband doesn't use his phone when we travel.

Posted by
184 posts

Verizon also has a monthly international plan for $100. I used it for a 12-day trip to France and Italy last month (since it was cheaper than $10/day). It worked flawlessly!

Posted by
1152 posts

I have T-Mobile and love the ability to use it outside the U.S. without additional cost (for data and texting). I think using the phone for calls only costs 25¢ per minute. If I need a cheaper rate, I use Google Voice and make the call using a data connection, which likely would require using wifi. The cost is usually just pennies a minute.

If I were not already on T-Mobile, I would look into using Google Fi as it beats T-Mobile on some of its features. As I think someone implied above, however, if you use a lot of data, the cost advantage may go away.

The big advantage to using a U.S. carrier is that someone back home needing to contact you can call or text you at a local number (to them), an advantage when you are concerned about a relative in poor health. To me, this advantage is why I would not go the route of getting a foreign number.

Posted by
1152 posts

One other thought: You do not have to change your phone plan from Verizon for a two week trip. Keep Verizon but get a second number through Google Fi that you will use on your trip and cancel when you return home. It will cost a lot less than Verizon's $10 per day charge. You may find that keeping the Google number active is worth it, too. I think it costs very little to do that. Plus, right now Google has a very good deal on a Pixel phone if you get and keep Google Fi for a limited time (3 months?).

Posted by
32263 posts

I normally use the international roaming plan offered by my cell network, which is more expensive than the rates charged by Verizon. While it's expensive, I need to be accessible via my usual number and that's the easiest and simplest option. On one occasion during a trip to France, being accessible at my usual number prevented a huge problem. In the overall cost of a European holiday, it's not a big deal.

Posted by
889 posts

We use Hippocketwifi.com…….they offer gift cards every Black Friday for a percentage off……we pay for 2 weeks or so use, have the mobile hotspot wifi unit, car charger and extra battery delivered to us either in the US before we leave or our first hotel in Europe……it is there waiting a the desk for you when you arrive in Europe. It is based out of France. We can text, email, whatever we want whenever we want with this service…..you enclose it all the last morning of your trip in an envelope they send to you and have your hotel put it in their mail as you check out…….it is a LIFESAVER…..we keep our iPhones on Airplane mode and have our own wireless service on 3-5 devices that are with us…….no more running down to the lobby to see if the “free” hotel service will send a text or an email home……which has been ridiculously bad and frustrating! We love using our maps devices on our IPhones and having access 24-7. Tried looking into our Verizon service in Europe but was too afraid that some “hidden” charge we were not aware of would land us with a hefty bill when we got home!

Posted by
202 posts

For what it is worth in terms of using a map on your phone, I used this app in Paris last month -- https://wego.here.com Before I left home, I dropped pins in places I knew I was going or wanted to go - you can even make "collections" like restaurants, shops, landmarks, etc. and even make notes about opening hours etc. You download the map and are able to use it offline. I was shocked at how well it worked offline -- it even knew where I was when I opened it -- while in airplane mode, no wifi.

Personally, I've never bothered with a cell plan while in Europe. Wifi is so available -- I can text somebody while on free wifi in the apartment / hotel / cafe / museum etc... Same with looking up something.

That being said, I'm never trying to text people on the fly while walking around. Really, with wifi so available and maps that work offline, that would be the only reason you'd need to go to the expense of all of you having cell service.

Posted by
922 posts

If you have an iPhone, another option is to use free wifi and send imessages that way. No cost. You just have to find wifi.

Posted by
4586 posts

I bit the bullet and paid Verizon, it works just like here so it's just simpler. HOWEVER ... both my phones are on the all you can eat plan, so I was surprised one day that I got a text saying I had used up my highspeed data allowance but they would be glad to sell me some more. So much for unlimited. For a trip of your length, get a Carte Orange SIM card and put it into an unlocked phone you bought here.

Posted by
14241 posts

I did as Jimmy did. I did the $10/day plan but kept my phone in Airplane mode except when I needed to use it for data. In the hotel I could access WIFI with the Airplane mode on so it worked great. I wound up with about 6 days out of 34 being charged for Verizon and those were days I used the plan to book a G7 taxi when I was out and about. Unless you think you might have to contact family at odd times thru the day you can probably do that kind of communication while you are in your hotel.

The most confusing thing was that the "day" is a 24 hour day based on Eastern Time instead of Paris time. Sometimes thinking about that was too much for my brain so I just didn't worry about leaking over into another day, lol.

Posted by
5 posts

Another thing to consider if you want to go the SIM card route is to make sure that your phone is unlocked by your carrier. I know Verizon phones are unlocked after you've had them for 2 months after purchase. I'll be in France the 14th-25th and I ordered an Orange SIM card that has 20GB of data and a certain number of texts and minutes, but I mostly plan on using the data for areas without wifi. Was only $50 plus shipping costs. I'll put it in my phone once we land.

Posted by
1321 posts

Use WhatsApp - for your communication - get your mom to put the app on her phone - when you have WIFI you can text and even call her using the app.

Posted by
2 posts

Does Verizon have a max number of days they will charge for? AT&T will charge you $10 a day for the first 10 days and then any day after that is free. 1 additional user on that is $5. So for 2 users your max expense would be $150 for a month of using your plan in Europe.

Posted by
1152 posts

Verizon does not have a cap. Instead it offers a monthly plan you can add on that costs $100. Otherwise it is $10 for every day you use it, or the pay-as-you-go rates if you don't sign up for the daily plan. See international travel monthly plan.

The monthly plan includes:

250 minutes

1000 sent SMS

Unlimited received SMS

5GB data

*Overages: $0.25/min, $0.05/message, $20/GB

*4G or 5G World device is required. Must be on a qualifying plan.

Posted by
65 posts

Thanks to all for your helpful replies. BJL, thank you! I downloaded the HEREWeGo app and will use it while in Paris along with What's App and lots of wifi.

I have AT&T mobile and as someone else noted they max out their $10/day international fee at $100 per month. It's important to confirm what they mean by "month." It's actually your billing period, not a calendar month. If your trip extends over multiple billing cycles you could get multiple $100 charges depending on how long you're away.

Linda